Assorted April PPV Countdown: 2000

The Netcop Rant for Backlash 2000 – Live from Washington, D.C., proud home of Marion Berry, Tammy Sytch’s favorite mayor. – Your hosts are JR & The King. – And we get a bit of shock right away, as Debra comes to the ring, three months early for Fully Loaded, if you know what I mean. We’re talking Scott Hall terroritory here. And she’s the RING ANNOUNCER for the first match? Alcohol and microphones don’t mix, kids. – Opening match, WWF tag titles: Edge & Christian v. High & Dry. (Wait a sec, I’m assuming X-Pac would be “High”, but how would Road Dogg be “Dry”? That joke name doesn’t even make SENSE!) Nice to see that X-Pac has recovered enough from the death in the family to get right back on the bus and start thrusting his crotch at people again. Edge & X-Pac start. X-Pac bumps around a bit and gets leg lariated to the floor. DX regroups and Road Dogg pounds on Christian. He gets sent to the floor and eats stairs, thus going into the Ricky Morton role. Literally, in fact, as this match is a dead-on impersonation of the millions of Andersons v. Rock n Roll Express matches that happened in 85-86, and I mean that in the nicest way. (That’s quite the exaggeration there.  Somehow I don’t think this was quite up to that level, although E&C were going into their prime as a tag team as this point.)  Back in, and a false tag for the champs leads to heavy double-teaming from DX. A broncobuster leads to a chinlock to kill time. Edge sneaks in a diving headbutt on Road Dogg to give the champs a two count. Hot tag to Edge, who powerbombs X-Pac off a leg lariat for two. Christian tries the Tomikaze (aka Unprettier, aka Killswitch, aka the lamest finisher to get multiple names ever)  on Road Dogg to reverse a pumphandle slam, but Tori (Not to be confused with Torrie.) gets involved and distracts the ref. X-Pac hits her by mistake, but recovers enough to X-Factor Edge while the ref argues with Dogg and Tori on the outside. Christian sneaks in, blasts X-Pac with the ringbell, and covers for the pin to retain at 9:21. Welcome back, X-Pac, enjoy the J-O-B. *** X-Pac adds the manly bladejob to reinforce the shot. Right booking there, even if the Edge & Christian heel turn is STILL in limbo.  (Yeah, not for long.) – WWF Lightheavyweight title: Dean Malenko v. Scotty 2 Hotty. Now, is it “2”, “II” or “Too”, because I’ve seen it all three ways recently. (I believe the official designation was “2”) New belt for Deano, which is pretty cool. The black leather looks way cooler than the red. Slugfest to start. Scott hits a backdrop for two, and reverses a piledriver for two. Suplex reversal goes Scotty’s way, but he showboats and gets killed. He tries the bulldog, but Dean rips his head off. Scotty bails and Dean rams him into the post for good measure. No blood is evident, sadly. Back in, Dean dropkicks the knee and works it like the MOFO he is. Dean is the MAN. Two shots around the post follow. Scotty tries to counter with an enzuigiri, but Dean calmly ducks it and slaps on a leglock. He hits a kneebreaker, but Scott gets the enzuigiri this time. Scotty tries a comeback, but a whip to the corner kills that dead. Dean’s lining up of the shots of the knee with surgical precision is a joy to watch and pretty funny in the way he mocks him at the same time. Who said he couldn’t get over in the WWF on wrestling alone? (Many people, although it left him well-suited for a successful career as an agent and trainer later on.)  Spinning toehold is countered for two. Both guys hit the floor and Scotty mounts the comeback. Back in, Scotty goes up but gets superplexed off. Double-KO, and Scotty is up first with a backslide for two. Cloverleaf is countered with a cradle for two. Powerbomb attempt is countered with a bulldog, and the Worm follows. Match loses ½* because Scotty hops ON THE INJURED KNEE. Dean kicks out and gets the rope-assisted two-count, but the ref sees it and breaks it up. Reversal sequence leads to a Ligerbomb for two from Malenko. Blind charges misses, but Dean gets a powerslam for two. Scotty dumps Dean, who recovers and goes upstairs, but Scott tries a superplex, which is reversed, in MID-AIR, into a DDT OFF THE TOP! HOLY SHIT! Scotty is DEAD, DOA, toe-tagged, six feet under, and the pin is academic at 12:58. That finisher gets the ½* back. ****  (One of the great, underrated undercard matches they just kind of threw in around this time, which shows why the Radicalz were such a giant blow to WCW when they left.)  – Bull Buchanan & Big Bossman v. The Acolytes. Punchy kicky stuff for the first few minutes that I can’t be bothered with. The APA may be over, but keep ‘em out of the ring. Faarooq plays Seminole-in-peril as nothing of note happens. Hot tag to Bradshaw, usual brawl follows. Bradshaw goes up but gets superplexed for two. Clothesline from Hell kills Bull, but Bossman bops him with his trusty nightstick, and a scissor kick from the top finishes it for the Bossmen. Bleh. *  (Bull Buchanan was a rarity in WWE, actually, in that he was the big bodyguard paired with the smaller comedy guy later on who did not in fact end up getting the bigger push out of the deal, and in fact was fired when the act was just getting hot.  Of course, the smaller comedy guy ended up doing OK for himself as a solo act anyway.)  – Hardcore title: Crash Holly v. Hardcore Holly v. Jeff Hardy v. Matt Hardy v. Tazz v. Saturn. Everyone takes turns getting two-counts on Crash, as the only way the match ends is by pinning him. Or him pinning someone else. We go running to the back right away, where Crash and Matt climb up one of the giant meat hooks that’s swinging at the entranceway. Matt kicks Crash onto the rest of the boys, then dives off onto them himself, drawing a “holy shit” chant. Camera misses it, for some reason. Jeff swings off the hook with a rana on Saturn. Back in, the Hardyz double-team Crash, then Tazz. Hardcore smacks people at random with a 2×4, because he’s hardcore. Saturn steals it and utilizes it. More weapons get involved. A roadsign to the head gives Hardcore a two-count on Crash. Back out, Crash gets creamed. Tazz and Saturn double-team him on the outside for a bit, then back in. Match drags a bit here. Tazz goes nuts with the roadsign to liven it up again as everyone keeps beating on poor Crash. A moonsault from Jeff and one from Saturn get a two-count. We end up with the Hollies alone in the ring, and Hollycaust on a chair gets two. The Hardyz bring a ladder in, to a big pop, and clean house with it. Jeff heads up and hits the swanton from the top, but Matt breaks up the pin. They fight over the pinfall, and Tazz sneaks in and hooks the Tazzmission, and THAT looks to be it. Saturn breaks THAT up with a wicked shot to Tazz, and everyone ends up outside the ring except for Tazz and Crash, and with Tazz still out, Crash is able to roll over and get the pin to retain at 12:18. That was quite the ending. ***1/4  (This was of course the usual hardcore mess, although it’s interesting that it was moving away from the household objects and fresh fruit of the Vince Russo era and into a slightly more realistic style here.)  – The Big Show v. Kurt Angle. As if Angle’s pre-match ranking out of Marion Barry wasn’t funny enough, Big Show one-ups him to infinity by becoming…the Showster! Complete with “Real American” music, skullcap, bad yellow tights and boots, and a dyed moustache. He runs through the pre-match promo, using “dude” about 14 times, and we are LITERALLY laughing so hard TEARS are running down our faces. (Remember when impersonating Hogan used to be edgy and funny?)  Kinda puts “Oklahoma” in perspective, doesn’t it? Angle attacks, and Show hulks up right away, sending us in howls of laughter until we’re all nearly rolling on the floor laughing for real. Big boot and legdrop only get two (what a shock) and the crowd is dying. In a good way. (Wouldn’t be so funny 2 years later when the real deal came back and everyone went crazy for the same old shit until he got the belt again.)  Angle works on the leg, so the crowd chants “Hogan” to show that they’re in on the joke and Show makes the comeback, hitting the chokeslam for the pin at 2:36. Match was a DUD, but for sheer entertainment this was, seriously, the funniest thing I’ve seen in a good five years. Sure, Angle jobbed, but people will be talking about this match for YEARS. (It’s true, people still remember this match 12 years later.)  – T&A v. The Dudley Boyz. From funny to “let’s get this over with”. Brawl to start, as Buh Buh chases Trish around the ring and gets clocked by Test. Into the ring, where the Dudleys work Albert. Three elbowdrops get two. D-Von comes in and T&A takes over with some energetic double-teams for a while. False tag for Buh-Buh. If this were 1987, Gorilla would be calling for another referee right about now. D-Von gets a fluke sunset flip for two, but Albert follows with a powerbomb for two. Crowd chants “we want tables”, and honestly I prefer that to “we want puppies”, because at least the WWF can deliver the first one. Hot tag Buh Buh, and they double neckbreaker (IT’S NOT 3D, JR!) get two. T&A misses the powerbomb-elbowdrop finisher, but Trish distracts Buh Buh in the middle of 3D. Big boot from Test finishes at 11:08. Match was passable. *1/4 Trish gets caught by Buh Buh and D-Von sets up the table. Trish tries the greco-roman liplock, but Buh Buh finally acts like a MAN and shakes it off, then delivers the powerbomb through the table that everyone was waiting for. Now hopefully that ends this insipid feud.  (There was quite the oddball psychology at play with the Dudleyz during this period, with the weird table fetish that kind of sexualized putting women through them as a stand-in for rape.  It’s like Russo was all about teasing sex, whereas Vince McMahon was about teasing violence, and as I noted here, violence was the thing that they could deliver so there was no real harm in playing it up like that.  Whereas with the puppies, it was endless teases of a payoff you were never going to get.  That’s interesting to me for some reason.)  – European title match: Eddie Guerrero v. Essa Rios. Eddie, my hero, drives his ’57 Chevy to the ring and proceeds to wrestle in his tuxedo. Well, he loses the shirt and jacket, but KEEPS THE BOWTIE, which is just unspeakably hip for reasons lost on me at the moment. (This of course was the point where Eddie, who had been entirely focused on ringwork and not personality, finally broke through and connected with the fans as a character.  And once again, it was a few months after WCW let him walk away.)  Quick reversal sequence to start. Eddie drops Rios on his head with a backdrop suplex and works the arm. Essa comes back but messes up the bouncy-bouncy armdrag sequence. And this is the important part: He DOESN’T repeat the spot. THANK YOU! Finally someone listens to me. Eddy nails the plancha and sends him to the steps. Back in, and the slingshot senton follows. Essa bails and Chyna kicks his ass. Back in, Eddie controls, but Essa comes back with a monkey flip which nearly causes Eddie to land on his head. Eddie dumps him and Chyna bitchslaps him again. Eddie follows with a plancha, and takes a while setting up a powerbomb on the floor. Lita climbs the ropes to attack, but Chyna pushes her off and into the table. (Can you fathom a time when Lita was stuck with a midcard loser like Essa Rios?  She definitely fucked her way up the corporate ladder.  Rios –> Matt Hardy –> Edge proved to be the smartest series of moves she could have made.)  Essa follows with a quebrada on Guerrero, slamming into the American table on the way down. Ouch. Eddie comes in but hits the floor again on the other side, and Rios follows with the INSANE cross-corner tope con hilo. Back in, and Chyna crotches Rios on the top rope, and Eddie superplexes him. He goes up for the frog splash, but Essa pops up and armdrags him back down. Moonsault hits nothing but knees, and Eddie finishes the challenger with his modified Gory special – the spinning neckbreaker drop – at 8:41. Started sloppy but got mondo cool. ***1/2 Lita rips Chyna’s prom dress off out of spite. Growl. (Chyna was of course in that special zone at this point right before Playboy where she was hot from the surgery and not yet exposed as being the total batshit crazy trainwreck psychopath that she became after quitting in 2001.)  – WWF Intercontinental title: Chris Benoit v. Chris Jericho. Let the Canadian violence commence! (Man, that phrase has lost all meaning to me now.)   Slapfest to start. Pinfall reversal sequence and then they KILL each other with chops. That’s the #1 pastime up here, you know – chopping. (Well, that and finding more and more obscure ways to change “ck” to “que” in everyday spelling just to fuque with visiting Americans.)  Benoit gets two of the triple suplex, but Jericho bails and Benoit follows with a MANLY tope suicida that sees him missing and landing on his head. (And we wonder why he ended up with brain damage.)  Stairs get dropkicked into Jericho’s crotch, however, just so he doesn’t feel like Benoit has to shoulder all the pain and suffering. Back in, Benoit beats him up and hits a gutbuster. Jericho misses a dropkick and Benoit catapults him into the turnbuckles and drops him on the top rope. Snap suplex gets two. Into the abdominal stretch, which Lawler mocks, so Benoit starts slamming right hands into Jericho’s side to actually make it look painful. GOD BLESS CANADA! (That shit would HURT.  I wish more people would do rabbit punches to the ribs and kidneys while delivering an abdominal stretch.)  Jericho breaks and hits the Lionsault, but can’t capitalize. It eventually gets two. Benoit delivers more chops, but Jericho hits the leg lariat off a blind charge. Bulldog gets two. Rollup gets two. Jericho blocks a suplex, but misses the springboard dropkick – and this is the great part – and Benoit acts as if HE MEANT IT TO HAPPEN THAT WAY. Benoit goes upstairs and gets crotched, and Jericho hits a backdrop superplex, but takes the worst of it. Benoit backslide is reversed to the double powerbomb, which gets a two count. Benoit slickly hooks the Crossface off the pinning attempt, however, and holds on for a LONG time, nearly breaking Jericho’s head off, until Jericho makes the ropes. Second try is reversed to the Liontamer by Jericho, and now Benoit makes the ropes. Ref gets bumped on a flying forearm, and Benoit grabs the belt and blasts Jericho. It gets two. Snap suplex on the belt sets up the headbutt, but Jericho holds the belt in the air and Benoit hits that…drawing the DQ at 15:04? Fuck! (Fuque!) Crowd boos the hell out of that finish, rightfully so. Even JR admits that “the decision sucked”.  (Or “suqued” if you’re from Canada) Jericho snaps and puts the ref in the Liontamer. Great match with a bad ending. ****  (Notice the trend of re-energized WCW exiles having great matches here?  Although Jericho and Benoit of course had crazy good chemistry together, like transcendent and incapable of having a bad match together chemistry.  They actually headlined the greatest WWF house show I ever attended, which was in 2000 not coincidentally, doing a home-and-home series in Edmonton and then Calgary.  In Edmonton, Benoit played the babyface and Jericho the heel and they had an effortless **** match with Benoit going over, and then went to Calgary and had a totally different match, with Benoit now the heel and Jericho the babyface, and it was apparently great as well.) WWF title match: HHH v. The Rock. Vince comes out and notes that Steve Austin will NOT be here tonight, no sirree. Big staredown to start. Slugfest goes HHH’s way, but Rock gets a quick elbow. Pedigree reversed and Rock stomps a mudhole. Shane pulls him off. HHH hits a neckbreaker during the interference. Brawl outside and Rock eats table. Vince sends him to the ringpost and tosses him back in for two. High knee gets a fast two. High suplex and kneedrop gets two, three times. Into the chinlock. Shane ignores the feet in the ropes, thus giving it a purpose. Rock fights out and gets clotheslined down for two. HHH pummels him in the corner, but Rock drops him on the top turnbuckle. Vince KO’s him with the title for two. Rock comes back and tosses HHH. Brawl outside, where HHH hurts his shoulder. Back in, Rock gets a DDT, but Shane won’t count, so Rock decks him. Back outside, Rock hits the stairs, and HHH goes for the Pedigree on the Spanish table. Rock reverses, however, and grabs BOTH HHH and Shane and delivers a double Rock Bottom through the table! That had to be seen to be believed. Back in, Vince attacks Rock, and Rock goes after him, only to get low-blowed from behind by HHH and Pedigreed. Shane is still dead, however, so no ref. Brisco and Patterson run out in ref gear and a big beatdown follows. Vince hits a wicked chairshot on Rock, and HHH goes for the final Pedigree…and THE GLASS BREAKS. The crowd goes INSANE as Austin (beer gut and all) uses a chair to destroy anything that moves. (I am of course not doing the crowd reaction here justice.  The arena came UNGLUED as Austin kicked everyone’s ass, and even watching at home 12 years later it still sends chills down your spine to see how perfectly booked and executed this whole deal was.)  Everyone is out cold except for Rock, and Linda leads Earl Hebner out, shoving Stephanie aside on her way. Back in, and Rock hits the spinebuster and academic People’s Elbow on HHH as Hebner comes in to count the pin at 19:22, and FINALLY it’s Game Over as the Rock is the 4-time WWF champion. ****1/2 (See, this was the one time where HHH’s usual theory about “I should go over everyone so that it’ll mean more when someone beats me” actually paid off the way it was supposed to.  He just got more and more heat through the early part of 2000 and Rock got more and more sympathy from the fans and you just wanted to see Rock kick the shit out of him and give HHH what was coming to him.  Test, meanwhile, was like “Oh yeah, you stole my fiancé and drugged and raped her in Vegas, whatevs.” and that’s why he wasn’t the Rock.)   Austin celebrates by towing the DX Express remains to the ring and sharing some cold ones with the Rock. The Bottom Line: Wrestling? On a wrestling show? But…but…Vince Russo said that it doesn’t matter! How can such a contradiction exist? At any rate, if there’s been a better PPV from any company within the past year, it’s news to me, because this one blew them all away in terms of wrestling, entertainment and sheer markout value. Everyone goes home happy and only one real clunker drags it down. Now THAT’S a PPV. Big, big thumbs up.  (Agreed, this was I think inarguably the best PPV of 2000, which is pretty high praise, but this would not have felt out of place as a Wrestlemania in a lot of ways.  The Rock-HHH main event is still one of my all time favorite matches for sheer entertainment value and marking the pinnacle of their feud, not to mention the financial highpoint for the company.  This was the time when they made a SHITLOAD of money, and it was well deserved.) 

Assorted April PPV Countdown: 1999

The Netcop Rant for WWF Backlash. As a guide, I’m watching this on tape instead of live, and sober instead of drunk. I know there are those of you who like to keep track of these things when reviewing my reviews… (This was another one where it’s crying out for a redo but my original tape was in such crappy condition that it wasn’t worth transferring over, being that it was a 2nd generation dub from a PPV descrambled with a black box…not exactly DVD quality stuff to begin with.  It used to be a pretty big chore to to rip off PPV and at least now you don’t have to have special equipment imported from Mexico or stupid shit like that, should you want to indulge in that sort of behavior, hypothetically speaking.)  Live from Providence, Rhode Island. Your hosts are Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler. Opening match: The Brood v. The Acolytes & Mideon. Christian and Mideon have a bizarre staredown to start. Crowd seems less than enthused by this one. Brood tries to double-team Bradshaw, but he no-sells. Christian ends up playing Ricky Morton as the match drags on. Hot ending as the Brood runs through their stuff on Bradshaw, with Christian getting a two count off a swinging DDT, but the 10 punch count gets reversed into a NASTY powerbomb for two. Christian and Edge do a double-team pescado on Faarooq outside the ring, but Viscera waddles down and squishes Christian, allowing Bradshaw to clothesline his head off for the pin. Didn’t see all of it due to getting dinner, but it seemed **-ish. (Now there’s a professional rating system.)  Hardcore title: Bob Holly v. Al Snow. Pretty standard hardcore match, with the in-ring sequence lasting a couple of minutes (and an Al Snow bladejob) before they fight to the parking lot and hit each other on trucks and the dumpster. Hey, garbage wrestling. (Like you’re better than me or something.  You all would have done THE SAME THING.)  Cute spot as they fight into the audio truck, and Holly takes a fall onto a waiting car. Snow finds some conveniently placed frying pans and uses them for a two count as we head back to the ring. Snow puts Holly on the TABLE OF DEATH, but gets clocked with a frying pan. Holly superplexes him onto the table. Nice spot. They lay around for a while, and Snow manages to grab the Head and whack Holly with it for the pin. Man, that thing must have a brick molded into it or something. I think I need a new rating system for garbage matches – the star system doesn’t seem to work well anymore. At any rate, this was subpar crap (as opposed to the entertaining variety) so we’ll go ** (1999 felt like a neverending blur of Hardcore Holly and Al Snow hitting each other with produce and household appliances.)  Intercontinental title match: The Godfather v. Goldust. Meanie debuts his Sable-riffing bit on PPV. (Word of explanation for those of you not fortunate enough to be around during the glory days of Mrs. Brock Lesnar:  They got it into their heads that Sable needed to get into the pre-match catchphrase business, so they came up with something about “the men who came to see me and the women who want to be me” while doing a bad stripper impression, and it never really got over.  Now picture the Blue Meanie doing the same routine.  There you go.)  Godfather comes out alone, drawing boos. So he brings out five hos and gets the face pop. Boring but not terrible match, until Goldust does the powder routine from the house show circuit, where he gets powder in the face and delivers the Shattered Dreams to Meanie. Godfather uses the Ho Train and Pimp Drop to finish it. Eh. Been there, done that. * #1 Contender’s match: The New Age Outlaws v. Jeff Jarrett & Owen Hart. May I just say about Debra’s outfit: Hominahominahomina. Is she just saving these “bikini and jacket outfits” for PPV or something? Jarrett gets major heel heat by covering up Debra. The bad thing about going to a house show just before a PPV is that the guys basically just run through the same match. Crowd gets an enthusiastic “Show Your Puppies” chant going for Debra. (Now the kids in the audience would be like “Ew, girls, yucky-pants.”) The heels can’t get anything going until a pier-six situation allows Owen to hit an enzuigiri and get the advantage on Road Dogg. JR posits that the crowd are dog-lovers. Owen and Jarrett do the old-school “distract the ref and beat on the face” bit to good heat a few times. Crowd keeps chanting for the puppies. You know, one of these days Vince HAS to let us see them. (He never did.)  Ross to Lawler: “Do you have a breast fetish?” Gunn gets the hot tag and we do simultaneous 10 punch counts. RD tries to solicit Debra’s attention, and then hits a pumphandle slam for two. More brawling, and Owen gets the Sharpshooter on Jammes, but Gunn hits the Rocker Dropper on Owen while in the hold and gets the pin. Good ending. *** (And that’s Owen Hart’s last match on PPV.)  Shane runs down his father, then Vince and Stephanie retort. Boiler Room Brawl: Paul Wight v. Mankind. (I guess he wasn’t quite Big Show yet.)  Winner escapes the boiler room first. I assume this is pre-taped. Mick breaks a few sheets of drywall over Wight’s head, so Wight stuffs him in a shopping cart and rams him into some stuff. Some candy glass gets broken and both guys blade. Mick is absolutely bumping for six here. Mick cracks open a valve and Wight gets steam in the face. Mick dumps a pile of pipes on Wight and crawls out the door, leaving a literal trail of blood. (Today you don’t even get blood in a Cell match at Wrestlemania between two of the biggest stars in the business.  Back then you get Foley slicing himself open for a nothing pre-taped midcard match.  And by the way, Big Show had only debuted, what, a month and a half before this?  And he’s ALREADY doing jobs for MANKIND?  No wonder he didn’t get over like a megastar.)  Bossman and Test attack and get chased off by Wight. Can’t really rate it – it was just brawling. (Lame!  Suck it up and give it a rating, wuss.)  It was okay. HHH v. X-Pac. Chyna is wearing the LOD Memorial Bra, complete with steel studs. HHH has new music, too, generic rock stuff. (Now, would that be the awesome “My Time” theme, I wonder, or just a random Jim Johnston composition that was in there until it got written for him?  Because I’m thinking he didn’t debut that song until after the “I am the Game” interviews started, but I could be wrong.  And in fact, I went to YouTube after writing that and looked up the match, and indeed “generic rock stuff” is about the best description of it; it’s just some random theme that I don’t even remember.)  HHH hammers on X-Pac in the early going, and dumps him over the top rope in a good bump from X-Pac. He gets the advantage back in the ring and goes for the Broncobuster, but Chyna distracts him long enough to miss the move. The announcers sell a neck injury for X-Pac as HHH wallops him. Man, HHH hasn’t used the knee yet. And he’s being quite the dick here, working the neck. You know the biggest tragedy about HHH’s heel turn? He’s let his hair go to shit. He used to be a lousy wrestler who at least had good hair, but now he doesn’t even have the hair. (The hair made a bit of a comeback, but it never reached the glory days of D-X again.)  Good psychology here from HHH, as Ross gets so concerned about X-Pac’s continued well-being that he offers to ring the bell and stop it himself. That’s why Ross is 10x better than Michael Cole. X-Pac makes the comeback with the heel kicks and a swinging DDT. Chyna distracts the ref, but it backfires as it allows X-Pac a low blow. They end up on the floor and HHH hits the steps. Ref gets bumped on the floor on a baseball slide. CUE THE OVERBOOKING! X-Pac gets the Carpetmuncher, (See?  I’ve been using that joke for at least 13 years.) but Chyna lowblows him and hits an inverted DDT. Nice one, too. Lights out, here comes Kane. JR gets to say “hellfire and brimstone”. Chokeslam for Hunter. Chokeslam for Chyna. JR approves. Kane sets up Chyna and HHH in a corner each, allowing X-Pac to hit the Broncobuster on HHH to a big pop, and on Chyna to a bigger one. It’s all for naught, however, as the second Broncobuster allows HHH to deck him from behind and hit the Pedigree for the pin. He had to win folks, because he’s going Main Eventer pretty soon. (Now there’s the understatement of the decade.)  Best HHH match in a while. **** (I actually watched the match on YouTube while I had it loaded up, and it was indeed a spectacular match.  I would actually stand by that rating.)  Ken Shamrock v. The Undertaker. I really hate that new mix for the Undertaker’s music. The one on WWF the Music 3 is the best. And the new outfit screams “S&M fetishist”. (Don’t tell Curtis Hughes.)  Undertaker controls early, but Shamrock gets an opening and kicks away to the leg of UT. UT comes back, but Shamrock gets going to the leg. This is, again, just like the house show match from last week. This is an interesting attempt to elevate Ken to the next level, I’ll give the angle that. Crowd loses patience with this one fast. These guys are just not compatible workers. Shamrock gets the Fujiwara armbar and the crowd breaks into a big “boring” chant. Without Bret and Shawn to carry him, it’s becoming apparent that Undertaker has outlived his usefulness as a wrestler. (Not quite the hatred of 2000 Undertaker, but I was getting pretty tired of him at this point.) He has the unmitigated gall to work in a bow-and-arrow. When has UT EVER used that move? Nice move as UT legdrops Shamrock and Ken grabs the leg and rolls into a submission move. UT reverses to a half-crab. Undertaker: Submission fighter? (I also do lottery numbers, thanks for asking.)  UT is selling the leg injury well. Bad looking pin as UT has a clear pin after a big foot but Ken forgets to lift his shoulder at two. Hebner stops anyway. Ken hits the rana and anklelock, but UT kicks out quickly. UT tries the tombstone, but Ken gets the anklelock again. Bradshaw comes down with a baseball bat, but Ken knocks him off and hooks an armbar. Now Bearer is up on the apron, which is enough for UT to get a cheap win with the tombstone. UT got seriously devalued here. **  (He’ll be OK.)  Bradshaw delivers a Texas ass-whooping for fun. Crowd has no reaction to any of it. (Shamrock was on the way out anyway at that point.)  WWF World title match: Steve Austin v. The Rock. Shane is of course the guest ref. On Heat, it was announced that this is No Holds Barred and if Austin touches Shane, he’s DQ’d and the Rock wins the title. Quite the face pop for the Rock. We do a couple of minutes of wrestling and then the brawl starts, as they head to the entranceway. Austin gets put through the fence set up by the entrance. Austin reciprocates on the Rock in kind, then drops a metal case on his head for good measure. Rock get tossed through a pile of railings and Austin clotheslines him off a pile of cases. See, Herb, Rock is taking bumps. (Old school RSPWers may remember that Herb Kunze HATED The Rock.  Herb was a great guy but he totally missed the boat on Rock’s potential as a worker.) Austin batters the Rock some more and drags him to the ring. Rock takes a MAN-SIZED bump, charging Austin but flying over the top. On cue, the Spanish table gets destroyed by the Rock Bottom. Shane stops Austin from using a chair, and Rock tosses him over the railing. Rock puts Austin onto the announce table and steals a camera and does some camerawork, shooting the crowd. Then, in a spectacular visual, he turns around to see Austin giving him the double-bird and Stunner on the table. That was just a magnificent bit. Back in the ring and Austin goes for the Stunner, but Rock pushes him into Shane. Rock hits Rock Bottom and gets two (with help from Shane). That didn’t work, so Shane grabs the WWF title and charges, but hits Rock by mistake. Shane refuses to count and runs. Except of course, that Vince is here with Earl Hebner and the Stone Cold belt. Vince wallops Shane with the belt, and Rock hits Austin with the other belt and gets a two count from Hebner. Austin is up with the Stunner, and he hits Rock with the title for good measure and gets the pin. Another great Rock-Austin brawl. **** Vince tosses the skull belt to Austin and walks off. End of…oh, wait. In the back, Stephanie gets kidnapped by Undertaker: Limo Driver for Hire. That’s not gonna lead to anything good, I can just bet. (SAY IT WITH ME!  YOU KNOW YOU WANT TO!  And yeah, to say that it didn’t lead to anything good is also the understatement of the decade considering what the endgame was.  Two words:  Higher Power.)  Back to the ring as Austin downs some frosty beverages (sources say it’s actually Sprite, not beer), end of show. The Bottom Line: Well, I was expecting nothing coming in, and although it delivered two **** matches and nothing in the way of total crap, it didn’t really leave me feeling terribly excited one way or another. So thumbs in the middle this time out.  (No way, man, the Rock-Austin bit with the Smoking Skull belt is classic and it’s a great underrated brawl between them, plus the HHH v. X-Pac match is great and UNDERTAKER KIDNAPS STEPHANIE and nothing’s really bad on this show.  Easy-ass thumbs up.) 

April Assorted PPV Countdown: 1998

The SK Retro Rant for Unforgiven 98 – For god-knows-what reason, this is #1 with a bullet on my request list from the readership. Hey, I live to serve. – Live from Greensboro, NC – Your hosts are JR & The King. Have to get used to not typing THAT anymore.  (I guess this was written during the brief period when King had quit over the Miss Kitty stuff.)    – Opening match: The Rock, D-Lo Brown & Mark Henry v. Ken Shamrock, Faarooq & Steve Blackman. Quite the hodge-podge of different fates three years later here. Godfather is hanging around ringside, being a pest. Faarooq was of course freshly dumped as leader of the Nation of Domination, leading to the Rock’s hostile takeover of the group and slingshot move into the wrestling stratosphere. D-Lo & Blackman start, with the Lethal Weapon getting some kicks before taking a DDT. Blackman works an armbar, then Shammy continues. Faarooq comes in and whips D-Lo with his belt, with Rocky’s comical protests only serving to distract the referee further. (The early stages of Rocky v. Faarooq were really amusing, with Rock really developing his cartoonish heel persona.)  Irony can be so ironic. Mark Henry comes in and treats Blackman like a child with a pair of backbreakers and a mistimed clothesline. D-Lo comes back in and hits the Sky High for two. Faarooq comes in but makes the cardinal mistake of putting his head down and gets pounded. Rock makes his first appearance, drawing enough heat to scorch his sideburns off, and lays in the boots. Man, Vince must have made a downpayment on a new gold limo once he started hearing that sort of reaction to Rock. (Sadly the gold plated limo was blown up as a wacky prank by D-X in 2006, taking out 3 members of the Spirit Squad in the process.)  Henry gets an elbowdrop for two. Blackman tries his luck and gets powerslammed. Blackman is YOUR face-in-peril, thus making Rock’s heat look that much better by way of comparison. Rock fires off the People’s Elbow, irritating the HELL out of the fans, and goes into chinRock mode. (I remember the first time that Rock actually pinned someone with that move.  It was a house show against Mark Henry and you would think that the collapse of Western society was imminent judging by the massive amounts of hatred online fans showed.)  D-Lo misses the moonsault (no, no, don’t act so shocked), hot tag Faarooq. Faarooq, Faarooq, Faarooq is on fire! We don’t need no water! Okay, dumb reference, I’m allowed one per rant. (Well that quota sure gets exceeded a lot.)  Rock and Faarooq are left alone, which leads to a Dominator for the pin at 13:32. And that’s the highest Faarooq ever made it up the card. (Wait, what?  He challenged for the World title at KOTR 98, didn’t he?)  Boring mess, due to the lack of Shamrock involvement. * – Steve Austin stops by to harass the timekeeper. He lets him know that if ANY screwing goes on tonight, he’d better be calling for an ambulance. The timekeeper seems to get the message loud and clear.  (Oh, for the days when Montreal references were fresh and new.)  – European title match: HHH v. Owen Hart. This was pre-face turn for DX, but they were getting there. Sign in crowd: “Playboy Needs Chyna”. Well, THERE’S who we can blame. (That and her plastic surgeon.)  Speaking of Miss Congeniality herself, she’ll be locked in a steel cage and suspended above the ring here, ostensibly to prevent her from interfering, but in reality to allow Vince Russo to kill yet another time-honored booking tool. (Come to think of it, you really don’t see that one done anymore.)  Owen and HHH brawl down the aisle while they raise Chyna. Owen makes sure to ram HHH into the cage before she leaves. They head in and Owen clotheslines him right out again. Back in, Owen hits a backbreaker and dishes some CANADIAN VIOLENCE. HHH hotshots him to break the momentum, then USES THE KNEE. Ah, the old days when Hunter sucked. Suplex and kneedrop get two. Atomic drop and lariat get two. HHH does sort of a dragon sleeper as Chyna attempts to bend the bars. Owen’s sunset flip gets two, but HHH comes back with a neckbreaker for two. He goes to the sleeper, as Chyna keeps working on the bars. Owen comes back, but takes a facebuster for two. Back to the sleeper. Owen reverses out with a german suplex for two. Belly to belly hits as Chyna bends the bars. The ENZUIGIRI OF DEATH gets two. Leg lariat gets two. Piledriver and flying elbow, but Chyna escapes the cage to distract everyone. Owen dumps Hunter as Chyna hangs from the cage. The announcers talking about how she’s hanging for her life from the ceiling is really, REALLY disturbing and uncomfortable to listen to. It shouldn’t be, given that this took place a year before, but just having Owen there with this angle going on is pretty creepy. (That’s probably why they got away from doing the gimmick, come to think of it.)  Owen gets a DDT and hooks the Sharpshooter as the cage lowers (via Road Dogg, in an angle stolen from Ole Anderson), and Owen gets distracted. HHH nails him, but Owen reverses a Pedigree…and hits one of his own! X-Pac sneaks in, nails him with a fire extinguisher (not Raven’s FIRE EXTINGUISHER OF DOOM, though), and HHH gets the pin to retain at 13:38. Solid match, but Vince Russo had this weird hard-on for sixteen guys running in at once for every finish and it nearly ruined the match. ***1/4  (What was WITH HHH going over Owen all the time?  The original idea was for Owen to feud with Shawn, and yet he ended up winning the Euro title from Goldust (dressed as Hunter) and then doing two straight jobs to Hunter after that.  Good thing HHH has matured past that sort of selfish political manipulations.)  NWA World tag title: The New Midnight Express v. The Rock N Roll Express. Yet another step in Vince Russo’s master plan to humiliate Jim Cornette at every turn, poor Corney was stuck with Bob Holly and Bart Gunn in a pale knockoff of his one great accomplishment in the sport. (Well SMW was pretty good too.)  Today, Cornette has his dream job while Vince Russo sits at home, disgraced, with multiple concussions and no job.  (Well, Russo ended up with a long-term job with TNA and Cornette kind of blackballed himself from everyone but ROH, so I think Russo won the war in the long-term) Instant karma’s gonna get you. Bombastic Bob and Robert Gibson start, and Bob bails quickly. You know, I think the reason that Hardcore Holly got over so well has more to do with it being the total opposite of THIS gimmick than anything else. Back in, Robert works the arm and the RnR double-team. The entire crowd leaves for nachos. I mean, you can LITERALLY see the side of the arena facing the camera EMPTY in a two-minute span. The Midnights squabble, then Bart gets an abdominal stretch on Ricky as Cornette does a 1985 comedy routine with the ref in a desperate, sad attempt to make the fans care. Morton gets nailed by Cornette and plays himself. Bob misses an Alabama Jam (this gimmick is sacrilege on so many levels) and it’s a hot tag for Robert. DOUBLE DROPKICK OF DOOM, no ref. It’s so painful to have to mock their finisher like that, but that team did NOT age well. I’m almost glad the Midnight Express self-destructed before they became a sad parody of themselves, too. (And they’re still doing the reunion show circuit 11 years after I wrote this.)  It wasn’t so noticeable with the Rock n Roll in SMW, because that whole territory existed in a bizarre redneck timewarp stasis type thing, but back in the big leagues it was pretty glaring. Anyway, Robert rolls up Bart Gunn, but Bob bulldogs him for the pin at 7:20. The New Midnight Express actually got somewhat watchable for a short time, while the Rock N Roll Express was cut loose VERY soon after this. -* – Evening gown match: Lunda Vachon v. Sable. This was the first one, ever, believe it or not. Clothes get ripped, Marc Mero distracts Sable, and Luna rips her dress off for the win. DUD – Vince and Stooges come out to waste some TV time. That whole Russo-era habit of putting 20-minute interviews on PPV always bugged me.  (Good thing they don’t do THAT anymore!)  WWF tag team title: The New Age Outlaws v. LOD 2000. The catchphrase is there for the NAO, but not over yet. This was the WWF’s absolute last-ditch attempt to get the LOD over as something meaningful, but even with Sunny the Crack Whore and new outfits, it was still the same LOD. WCW would do well to remember that lesson. Jesse Jammes, never one to hold his tongue, even makes fun of the LOD in his pre-match banter, complaining about having to face the same dinosaurs yet again. (I bet the boys in the back were all upset about the LOD taking the spot of someone else on PPV.)  Between the steroids, pot and crack aggregately used by the participants in this match, a smart dealer could be set for life. Maybe Vince Russo should try peddling drugs – he certainly couldn’t get much lower on the food chain of life anyway. Plus at least he’d have a steady job. (TNA booker, drug dealer, either way.)  Speaking of Russo’s stupid ideas, Billy Gunn debuts the “Mr. Ass” tights here. Gunn misses a bodypress on Animal, and gets clotheslined for two. Gunn bails and Animal works on Dogg’s arm. Hawk runs through the usual as the Outlaws beg off. Gunn comes in and Hawk actually messes up a bodyslam. Just a plain old bodyslam. Of course, you could probably blame Gunn for that, too, given his habits as of late, but he was pretty decent back in 1998. (Let’s not get crazy here.)  Animal hits the chinlock. This is like watching UT & Kane shuffle through the tag ranks and desperately try to keep up with all the young and over teams today. Pier-six erupts, but the Doomsday Device is stopped with a well-timed clip, and Animal is painted-face-in-peril. NAO work the knee for a long time. Thank god for heavily caffeinated and sweetened soft drinks. Jerry & JR get so bored that they start riffing on Wild Kingdom to pass the time, despite it having nothing to do with the match. Gunn hits a fameasser for two. Hot tag Hawk, and katie bar the door, yada yada. Billy nails Hawk with the belt (the NAO’s finisher for the longest time) for two, but Animal suplexes Dogg for the pin. However, since both guys’ shoulders were down, the ref gave the champs the benefit of the doubt and counted ANIMAL out, so the titles stayed with the Outlaws. That wasn’t really explained by the announcers, but I’m using the Flair-Steamboat precedent which established that “tie goes to the champion” in 1994. Match was about as excruciatingly bad as one might expect. ½*  (I still don’t know why they were so obsessed with endlessly pushing and re-pushing the LOD in their degenerated state.  Vince is usually a smart enough guy to know when to let it go, but maybe he just really liked them?)  – Jeff Jarrett sings with Sawyer Brown. I fast forward. – Inferno Match: Kane v. Undertaker. Hey, a Kane v. Undertaker match, that should pick the pace of this show up! The ring is of course surrounded by “fire” here, in reality a pipe spewing butane-powered flames under the control of a pyro expert at ringside. To win, you have to set your opponent on fire. (Also, the most annoying game mode in the RAW v. Smackdown series.  Took me FOREVER to figure out how to win that fucking thing, as I would just keep beating down my opponent and get nowhere with it.)  They hammer on each other and UT hits an avalanche. Ropewalk and flames puff up, as they do with all the highspots in this match. Blind charge and Kane backdrops him over the top, but Taker seems to land awkwardly on the ropes and falls back into the ring. Kane stomps away to take over. UT goes to the eyes to counter. Thrilling stuff! Kane keeps stomping. Chairshot puts Taker down. He comes back with more kicks, as does Kane. I’m having trouble keeping up with the rapid-fire pace of complex moves here. Oh, and choking, sorry, almost forgot that. Taker gets a russian legsweep and elbow, which is no-sold by Kane. Chokeslam follows, but UT blocks the tombstone and chokeslams Kane back. Kane no-sells. Double boot and both guys are knocked unconscious by the effort required to stick their leg in the air. Kane ducks a lariat and sideslams him, then goes up. UT crotches and superplexes him, which Kane of course no-sells. UT tosses him, but Vader appears and pushes him back to ringside, where Taker comes barrelling out with his hands-free tope over the top rope, taking out both guys. He then knocks Kane “unconscious” by the ring apron, thus allowing Kane to prepare his gimmicked arm while UT chases Paul Bearer to the stage and beats him up for a good 3 or 4 minutes. Back to the ring, Kane sort of falls into the fire and UT wins at 15:53. Give it ½* for the tope. The arm coating looked incredibly fake.  (What is with WWF guys always losing their own specialty matches?  Is it like an offshoot of people jobbing in their hometown?  How do you humiliate someone from Parts Unknown, though?)  WWF title match: Steve Austin v. Dude Love. This is round one, as Vince withheld the identity of Austin’s opponent until a week before the show and then turned Mick Foley into his corporate zombie. (That was some incredibly ineffective marketing there, as we literally had no clue who was challenging for the title leading up to the show, and the resulting buyrate was pretty sad.  I’m still not sure if they just didn’t know who to run with as challenger or what.)  Dude jumps Austin, but gets his ass kicked, and bails. Back in, Thesz Press and elbow as Ross takes a shot at Bischoff for declaring that a guy in black boots and tights could never get over. Spinebuster and elbow, and Dude bails again. They brawl as Dude tries to run, only to get viciously clotheslined from behind by Austin. They head to the stage (a popular spot tonight), and Austin casually tosses him off, onto the bare concrete 6 feet below. Back to ringside, they slaughter continues. Austin drops an elbow off the apron, and back in we go. Austin misses the rope straddle and Dude bulldogs him. Elbowdrop and Dude punishes him in the corner. Dude works the neck with a body scissors as Vinnie Mac joins us at ringside. Austin breaks the move and yells at Vince, but Dude rolls him up for two. Austin posts Dude as Vince “observes” from ringside, near the timekeeper, wink wink. (Montreal!  That’s a thing that happened!)  Dude bails and Austin tries a piledriver, but as usual he gets backdropped. He hurts his knee and Dude leaves for the ring as Vince taunts Austin. Austin stalks him, but Dude returns the favor on that clothesline from behind. Dude tries a suplex in, but Austin blocks, so Dude necksnaps him to the floor. The ref counts, but Vince tells Austin to “be a man and get back in”, and that the ref is fired if he reaches 10, so Austin beats the count. (That’s tremendous.  I miss that Vince.)  Dude hooks the ABDOMINAL STRETCH OF DOOM (with which he got past the awesome challenge of Steve Blackman, even under dubious circumstances) and Vince goes crazy, telling the timekeeper to ring the bell. Austin reverses the move, and Vince goes equally crazy, telling him to ignore everything he just said. Funny stuff. Brawl outside, and Austin suplexes Dude onto the stairs. They fight into the crowd and Austin dumps him back in, and into the ring. Dude comes back with a neckbreaker. Sweet Shin Music is blocked, and the ref gets bumped. Stunner is blocked with the Mandible Claw, and Vince revives the ref…unsuccessfully. This would actually become a storyline point, as Vince declared the refs unfit and took the job himself at the next PPV. Austin dumps Foley, but scuffles with Vince. Foley charges with a chair, but gets it back in his face. Austin chairshots Vince out cold, and heads back in for a little KICK WHAM STUNNER action, and counts the pin himself at 18:48. It was later decided to be a DQ win for Dude Love, justifying the rematch at Over the Edge 98. Great brawl that got a little overwhelmed by the storyline at times. The next month, they would solve that problem by making the storyline the focal point of the match and building on it. ****  (A very underappreciated brawl, even by myself.  I think it’s just because the next month’s rematch was just so awesome, but Austin counting his own pin was great, echoed by the finish at Over the Edge.)  The Bottom Line: Nothing terribly exciting. The HHH-Owen match, while solid, has been done before and better, and the same with Austin-Dude. The rest of the card is the usual shitty 1998 WWF undercard, as the main events were totally carrying these shows back then. Mildly recommended.  (I’d have to go recommendation to avoid now.  Just so much crap and Russo nonsense to sit through.) 

Assorted April PPV Countdown: 1997

  (2012 Scott sez:  I  was tempted to go back and redo this one, but sadly this tape was one of the lost souls in the Great Videotape Purge Of 2005 and didn’t make the transition over to DVD.)  The Netcop Retro Rant for In Your House:  Revenge of the Taker. – On Monday night, Bret Hart said he beat Steve Austin every time they met.  Not true.  (Well, the man’s a stroke victim, you have to expect some memory problems.)  – Live from Rochester, New York. – Your hosts are Jim Ross, Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler. Free For All:  The Sultan v. Flash Funk.  The Sultan is hot off jobbing to Rocky at WM13, and Flash is hot off jobbing to Billy Gunn. Flash still has the Funkettes, demonstrating that he’s two years before his time. (I guess I was going for the Godfather joke there, although really Funk was in fact 15 years before his time given that Brodus Clay swiped his whole act.)  The match is nothing, as they trade some stuff and then Flash tries a rana off the top, but gets it blocked into a powerbomb for the pin.  * for a couple of nice spots, but no wrestling to speak of. – Another great Freddy Blassie promo starts us out. – Opening match, WWF tag team title: Owen Hart & Davey Boy Smith v. The Legion of Doom.  The Harts are fresh off re-joining with Bret Hart (and not earning many fans in the US by doing so) and the LOD are…well…the LOD. Animal controls Owen with some power stuff to start.  The champs take over, and Hawk no-sells a bunch.  Then Owen gets beat up by the LOD.  Then Hawk gets beat up by the champs.  It’s all as exciting as it sounds.  A heel miscommunication spot leads to the hot tag, and Animal hits a powerslam off the top rope…for the pin!  The LOD regains the tag titles and…oh, wait.  Here’s another referee, pointing out that the wrong man was pinned, so the match continues. Hey, the ending sucks already and we’re not even done yet.  Okay, we’re on again, and Animal is getting double-teamed by the heels.  Owen misses a splash off the top rope and Hawk gets the hot tag.  Doomsday Device, but Bret Hart runs in for the DQ.  Okay, that sucked.  *1/2 for the whole mess.  (I feel like I short-changed this one, commentary-wise, but holy shit was this a terrible opener.  Hawk was just a mess at this point.)  Intercontinental title match:  Rocky Maivia v. Savio Vega.  Rocky attacks early with a couple of ARMDRAGS OF DOOM and Faaarrrrrooooqqqq (is that spelling right?) joins us for racist commentary.  Rocky continues working on the arm. Savio takes over with a leg lariat and a VULCAN NERVE PINCH OF DEATH!  FFFFFFffaarrroooqqqqq challenges Ahmed Johnson to a match for the *next* PPV.  (That’s actually the kind of long-term planning that they could use more of, outside of Rock-Cena’s one year build of course.)  More devastating restholds and choking from Savio, thrilling the crowd.  Rocky hits a fisherman’s suplex for two, but Savio retaliates with a superkick.  Rocky hits the hurricane DDT out of nowhere and gets two.  Rocky makes the superman comeback.  Rock Bottom only gets two.  Savio tosses him to the floor, nailing Crush in the process, so Crush gives him the heart punch for the countout.  Lame match with a dumb ending.  1/2*  The Rocky angle was mercifully killed a couple of weeks later as Owen Hart won the IC title on a RAW.  The Nation does a big beatdown on future leader Rocky, but Ahmed Johnson makes the save.  (One would have to assume that this was setting up Rocky & Ahmed v. NOD in some form so they could pull the trigger on the Rocky turn, and the injury just delayed it a couple of months.)  – Dok interviews Marc Mero and Sable, and in the background Steve Austin goes into the bathroom.  Suddenly, you hear a bunch of yelling and screaming, and Davey Boy Smith emerges with a length of steel, bent at the middle.  He does a HILARIOUS double-take upon seeing the camera, and Owen follows, shoots another hilarious look at the camera, and they run off.  Funny stuff.  (See, this was the kind of anarchic fun that Vince Russo was GOOD at, and it freshened up the product because it was totally different than anything they had done before with the dull backstage interview segments.  Of course now that’s ALL they do.) “Double J” Jesse Jammes v. The Honky Tonk Man’s protege.  Yes, HTM spent months hyping his newest find, and we get…Rockabilly Gunn.  Oh you didn’t know that this match sucked?   Your ass better call somebody! (They should totally feature this match on the Are You Serious YouTube show.  Also, you should follow @WWEPuppetH, because I fucking love puppet HHH.)  Honky does a quick interview to explain the nonsensical Gunn turn.  The crowd is just gone, not caring a whit about either guy.  Astonishingly, Gunn and Jammes would be tag champions by the end of the year, and the most over tag team in WWF history within another 6 months.  (And then the geniuses at Titan Tower thought “Hey, if they’re doing great as a team, we can split them up and make TWICE AS MUCH off them!  We’ll make BILLIONS!”)  Rockabilly gets a two off a Rocker Dropper.  This match made the Netcop Busts compilation for sheer historical value of the stupidity.  Massive stalling and showboating from both guys here.  Jesse makes the big comeback with a bunch of punches.  Rockabilly goes for a suplex and Jammes reverses to a small package for the pin.  An awful match with an ending that made zero sense of several levels.  On the bright side, it sewed the seeds for the New Age Outlaws.  DUD  (God, I must not have been incredibly sick of Billy Gunn at that point.)  – ECW’s Lance Wright interviews the Hart Foundation about the Steve Austin attack. – Really weird promo for the title match. – WWF World title match:  The Undertaker v. Mankind.  What is with Mick main eventing the show after Wrestlemania, anyway?  (I don’t know, Seinfeld, you tell me.First here, then Unforgiven, then Backlash (before his injury changed that).  (And what’s with the WWF not being able to make up their damn mind about what their PPVs are named?  Do you know how tough it is to remember whether “Unforgiven” was in April or September or December or whatever in every given year?  I’m 37 years old, I can barely remember that Smackdown is on Fridays without my DVR taping it for me.)   Mick threw a fireball at UT to set this up.  Of course, the stuff that UT ended up doing in later years makes that look pretty tame by comparison. (The stuff that UT did to Mankind just one year after this makes that look tame by comparison, in fact.)  Vince notes how strange “WWF champion Mankind” would sound.  (WWF Champion anyone would sound weird now.)  Heh, just wait. They brawl outside the ring, with Mankind taking a couple of decent bumps.  UT continues the punishment with his ropewalking clothesline. Paul Bearer distracts the ref and Mankind nails UT with the urn for a two.  Mankind takes control with a devastating nerve hold.  They fight outside the ring again and Mankind whacks him with a pitcher of water. He drops an elbow from the second rope to the floor on Undertaker. Nasty.  Back in the ring with a piledriver for two.  Jerry Lawler asks Vince what the WWF suits would think of WWF champion Mankind, and Vince replies that “I’m sure they’ll find some way to market it”.  Socko, anyone? (Yeah, that’ll put butts in seats.)  Ref gets bumped and Mankind applies the Mandible Claw.  Another ref runs in and gets Clawed.  Fat Paul throws in a chair, but Mankind prefers a larger weapon and bring in the stairs.  UT dropkicks it back in his face, then just kills him with a chairshot.  Mankind gets tied in the ropes, losing his mask, and then takes the bump of the year (well, until Badd Blood), as UT rams the stairs into his head, and he flies off the apron, into the Spanish table, head-first.  Ouch.  Back in the ring, a chokeslam gets two and the tombstone gets three.  Wild match.  ***1/2 After the match, UT beats up Bearer while Mankind struggles to light a fireball.  UT grabs it from him and fumbles with it some more, finally setting it off in Bearer’s face.  This would be the angle that causes Bearer to change his hair color and eventually introduce the world to….Kane.  (Why DID he dye his hair back to black in 2004?)  Steve Austin v. Bret Hart.  (See, Austin was getting hot at this point, so to capitalize, at Wrestlemania they did the famous match where he got distracted by his girlfriend and pinned in 18 seconds by the babyface.  Oh, no, wait, that would be retarded.  My mistake.)  Slugfest to start.  Austin quickly gets control and nails Bret with an axehandle off the apron to the floor. Bret to the stairs.  Austin mocks Hart in the ring, then tosses him to the stairs again.  He tosses Bret over the railing, into the crowd, then hits an axehandle off the railing.  Bret is bumping like mad here.  Back in the ring and Austin with a “fuck you elbow” for two.  Bret grabs a chair it backfires, as Austin takes it from him.  Ref gets bumped and Hart smashes the chair into Austin’s knee a few times.  Vince talks about Bret’s ego.  Bret hooks the ringpost figure-four, then smashes a chair into Austin’s knee a few times.  Austin’s knee is gone.  Austin comes back with a series of elbows, but Bret simply kicks him in the knee to retake control. He rips off Steve’s faithful knee brace and works on the knee some more.  Back in the ring and Austin with a low blow to counter.  Dammit, that could cause a serious GROIN injury, the likes of which we’ve never seen before!  Ahem.  (That was referencing Bret’s WCW run at the point when I was writing this rant, as he was doing this weird heel thing where he was claiming a groin injury to get heat.)  Austin chokes out Bret with his tape.  The Fuck You Elbow misses and Austin lands on his knee. Bret, of course, goes back to it.  Bret hits a figure-four.  Austin reverses and they fight outside the ring again.  Austin drops Bret on the railing and clotheslines him from the apron to the floor.  Back in the ring and Austin with the CROSS CORNER WHIP OF DEATH.  Bret should do that bump in every match.  (He does.)  It gets two.  Austin tries a piledriver but his leg gives out.  Bret goes back to the knee.  Austin drops him facefirst on the top turnbuckle for two.  He goes for the Stunner but Bret makes the ropes.  Bret with his own low blow.  Bret with the superplex.  Bret goes for the Sharpshooter, and Austin grabs his wayward knee brace and whacks Bret with it, allowing him to reverse to his own Sharpshooter!  But then Owen and Davey Boy run in.  Austin breaks the move, chases them off, and tries the Sharpshooter again, but Davey Boy smacks Austin with a chair for the DQ.  **** Huge brawl breaks out and Austin fights them off.  The next night on RAW, all hell would break loose, triggering the biggest feud of the year. The Bottom Line: Sure, the first portion sucked, but for a two hour show you can’t complain too loudly about the co-main events.  Many people on RSPW called this one of the worst shows of all time, but it’s not even close. (Many people on RSPW were fucking morons.)  Definitely worth the rental to check it out a couple of years later for the good matches and interesting history. Very mildly recommended.

Assorted April Countdown: 1996

(2012 Scott sez:  It’s kind of tough to do a connecting theme for months where there’s no big history behind them, but there’s been some interesting PPVs in April for WWE, so we’ll give it a go.)
The Netcop Retro Rant for In Your House VII: Good Friends, Better Enemies.  (April of 1996!) 
– Live from Omaha, Nebraska.
– Your hosts are Vince McMahon & Jerry Lawler
– This would be the farewell show for both Diesel & Razor Ramon, as they departed for WCW in what was supposed to be a minor defection and ended up turning the company around. Sound familiar? Well, not that the WWF needs turning around these days, but hopefully someone at WCW was watching RAW on Monday night and paying attention to the response for the Radicals got, one that they couldn’t get in WCW due to politics. (Ah, politics.)  Anyway, in the Survivor Series 95 rant, I commented that the Bret v. Diesel match there was Diesel’s second-best ever, and that he had a better one with Michaels. Many have e-mailed to ask what that one was, and herein lies the answer.
Free 4 All match: 1-2-3 Kid v. Wildman Marc Mero.
This is Marc’s PPV debut after jumping from WCW due to squabbling with Eric Bischoff and working most of the internet in the process. Hey, Marc, guess who’s laughing at who now? (I’m pretty sure Sable is laughing at Marc from her giant house in Minnesota as well.)  Karate showboating from the Kid to start. Quick sequence puts Mero in control with a flying headscissors that sends the Kid to the floor. Mero follows with a tope suicida. Slingshot legdrop gets two. Reverse rollup gets two. He goes aerial and gets crotched, then HHH (Mero’s first feud) makes an appearance. Kid hits some vicious kicks to take over as HHH stalks Sable. Mero escapes and goes to confront Hunter, and gets nailed by the Kid from behind. The ref tosses HHH, and Mero mounts the comeback. HHH runs in for the lame DQ at 7:20 of what was looking to be a great match. *** (Future) DX beatdown follows on Mero.  (This would have been pretty late in the Kid’s WWF run, if not the last appearance of him, in fact.) 
Opening match: The British Bulldog & Owen Hart v. Jake Roberts & Ahmed Johnson.
(What a stupid choice for an opener.)  Johnson was getting into Goldberg territory of overness at this point, although his work was stiff and sloppy, a dangerous combination. (So like Goldberg, basically.)  Bulldog had the issue with Ahmed over arm-wrestling (gotta love the mid-90s WWF) so Bulldog hides on the apron and lets Owen handle things. That goes pretty badly for him, as Ahmed tosses him around like a doll and then Jake nearly gets the DDT. Some cheapshots from Bulldog finally allow him to come in without fear of death. (Poor choice of words there, as it would turn out.  Sad face.)  Ahmed plays face-in-peril for a bit, but doesn’t really sell anything and soon tags out to Jake and he gets beat on for a long while. Jake’s mobility is so limited by age and alcohol at this point it’s scary. Not as scary as Heroes of Wrestling, but scary. The match drags on and on. Ahmed gets the hot tag and screams a lot. Jake inexplicably comes back in to finish things, but takes a LOADED TENNIS RACKET OF DOOM to the knee and submits to a lame kneebar at 13:43. Just way too long. ¾*  (I’ve always wondered about the physics behind the loaded tennis racket.  Wouldn’t in fact an unloaded racket be more aerodynamic and thus has more impact?  That’s the whole POINT of the tennis racket, to slice through the air and deliver a set amount of force to a small area.) 
Intercontinental title match: Goldust v. Ultimate Warrior.
You know how some matches are so bad that they’re good? Well, this is so bad that it’s just BAD. Goldust has a knee injury, so the “match” is literally him walking around the ring and stalling for FIFTEEN MINUTES to waste time. Finally he gets counted out to put us out of our misery. That’s all, folks. -***** How hard would it have been to say “Goldust is injured, so Warrior is fighting [x]”?  (This was literally not even a match, so perhaps the full negative monty is a bit unfair.  Not by much, mind you.) 
Vader v. Razor Ramon.
This was Graceful Job-Out #1 on the night, as Razor was wooed by WCW a few months before this. (Funny how Hall was such a problem to WWF around this time and a constant source of embarrassment with the drug issues and rehab, but when WCW made an offer suddenly he was an incredibly valuable part of the team and Vince started crying about tampering and unfair practices.)  Ramon bumps around for Vader to start, as Vader basically squashes him. Ramon punches a lot to come back. Three clotheslines put Vader on the floor. Vader stalls. Cornette’s help allows Vader to continue his destruction of Ramon. Vaderbomb gets two. Ramon gets a vertical suplex to come back. Powerslam as Vader is coming off the 2nd rope gets two. Bulldog gets two. He tries the Razor’s Edge, but his ribs give out and he collapses. Vader goes for the moonsault, but Ramon brings him down the hard way. Razor’s Edge attempt #2, but Vader backdrops out and sits on him for the pin at 14:47. The selling and psychology were sound enough for a good rating, but the match was REALLY boring. ***  (Sounds high to me.  Like Hall.  HEY OH!) 
WWF tag team title match: The Bodydonnas v. The Godwinns.
This was a rematch from the finals of the inaugural “Placeholder champions until Billy Gunn’s injury heals” tournament at Wrestlemania 12. (Man, things were so pathetic back then that the tag title match got bumped to the Wrestlemania pre-show!  How stupid and backwards were the mid-90s.  Thank god things aren’t like that today, and…uh…never mind.)  Zip gets double-teamed to start as Vince says “scufflin’” about 14 times. What the hell is with him and hillbilly gimmicks, anyway? Are the southern states REALLY so much of a hotbed that he has to tailor entire gimmicks for them? The story here is that Phineas is in love with Sunny. Just give her some crack, Phineas, that’ll bring her around. (Tammy actually got somewhat sober again in the new century before seemingly going crazy and attempting to hire New Jack to kill her ex-boyfriend.  Allegedly.  Her Facebook page is a constant source of humor and I’m constantly disappointed that she hasn’t gone on Twitter to work out her crazy yet.)  Highlight of the mostly-comedy match sees HOG pull out an Ocean Cyclone suplex (picture a german suplex, but starting with the opponent face-down on the mat) as the farmers dominate the champs. This whole period for the titles was a trainwreck, as the Bodydonnas were not over and Vince had no desire to help them become so (Cloudy, anyone?) and the Godwinns were, well, the Godwinns. Thank god for the New Rockers to save the tag division in 96. (I think I was being sarcastic there, but sometimes I can’t even tell myself.)  The champs cheat and gain the advantage. Phineas gets all “riled up” (seriously, is this whole gimmick like one big cheapshot at Ted Turner or something?) (Yeah.)  and hot tags HOG, but Sunny had conveniently brought a framed, autographed 8×10 of herself to ringside (which probably wasn’t far from the truth at the time) and uses it to distract PIG while the Bodydonnas pull the switcheroo and pin HOG at 7:12. Soo-ey, that sucked… ½*
WWF World title match: Shawn Michaels v. Diesel.
This is the ultimate blowoff for their long-simmering feud, as Diesel was leaving for WCW and made it known that he was on one final run of destruction before he left. Shawn was hot off beating Bret Hart at WM12 and needed credibility. (And about 5 years’ worth of maturity.)  This is no-holds-barred. Shawn uses his speed to avoid Diesel, then dropkicks him out and hits a moonsault tope onto him. He steals a boot from Hugo Savinovich and nails Diesel for two. Diesel gets pissed and knocks Shawn onto the railing, then tosses him back in and absolutely wallops him. Shawn sells like he’s dead. Diesel keeps shooting evil glances at Vince. Jumping side slam nearly puts Shawn though the mat, then Diesel undoes his wrist tape…and chokes out Hebner! He steals Earl’s belt and lays in some wicked shots on Shawn, then hangs him from the top rope and ties him there. As Shawn struggles to free himself, Diesel calmly grabs a chair and blasts Shawn. Back in for another solid chairshot. Lord, what a beating. One more, but Shawn ducks and Shawn gets the chair. That proves temporary, as a low blow gets two for Diesel. Diesel absolutely lays into him with forearms, sending him crashing to the floor. Vince keeps yelling at Shawn to “stay down”. Cool spot of the year: Diesel starts a long tradition, powerbombing Shawn through the announce table. He parades around with the title belt while Shawn, who is nearly dead, pulls himself out of the wreckage. Vince, his own microphone dead, does his usual awesome acting job, yelling “Just let it be over!” at Shawn. Shawn crawls to the ring, and finds a fire extinguisher, which he discharges into Diesel’s face. Flying forearm puts him down, and Shawn grabs a chair to even the odds. Two vicious shots follow, but Diesel won’t go down, and in fact hits the big foot to the face right away to KO Shawn. He takes too long, however, and Shawn escapes the powerbomb. Flying elbow sets up Sweet Chin Music, but Diesel calmly grabs his foot and rips his head off with a lariat. What is this, All Japan? He tosses Shawn out again and drops him on the railing, then gets inspired. He heads over to the front row and beats up Maurice Vachon, who is seated ringside, and STEALS HIS ARTIFICIAL LEG. Major, major heel heat for that. Shawn lowblows him, however, and steals the leg. He knocks Diesel cold with a shot from the leg, then waits for him to recover, warms up the band, and superkicks him for the pin to retain at 17:51. He didn’t win the match, he SURVIVED it. What a horrific beating and an AWESOME brawl. ****3/4 Shawn’s “in your FACE!” post-match celebration is amazing acting on his part, too, and it really makes the match.  (Yeah, I reviewed this one again recently for Vintage Collection, and it’s truly one of Nash’s best matches ever.  A lot of people think that it doesn’t hold up today, but they didn’t wrestle for internet nerds like us watching 16 years later and it was an awesome brawl for the time.) 
The Bottom Line: Most of the show is pretty worthless, but that brawl is something else and sets the tone for garbage main events to follow for years to come. In the next in my little In Your House series, I’ll look at an even BETTER Shawn brawl from a few months later against Mankind. As it is, I’m still in shock to this day that Shawn won Match of the Year for the Wrestlemania match rather than the Diesel or the Mankind one. As it was, however, this match, rather than the Bret one, was the one that really put Shawn over the top as a credible champion and got him over. I wonder if that pissed Bret off?
Recommended only for the main event.